April 20, 2011
The first phone call to Scott Bisland’s house came about 4:40 a.m., followed less than a half-hour later by a knock at his door.
Toxic vapors were circulating about 1,000 feet from his front door, the deputy said, so his family needed to leave immediately. He didn’t have enough time to get his 13 pets.
“I sealed the house real good,” Bisland said.
The Bisland household was one of 250 in Monument awakened Wednesday by emergency phone calls or the loud knock of deputies at the front door.
Some, like Todd Fowler, didn’t pick up the phone when it first rang. But when his wife checked the message, she said, “‘You’ve got to listen to this, because you won’t believe me when I tell you,’” Fowler said.
Vapors seeping from a rail car carrying hydrochloric acid permeated the Santa Fe Trail subdivision, leading some to notice a burning sensation in their noses.
“It smelled like you were in an indoor swimming pool — a strong smell,” said Jenny Nordman.
Dozens of evacuees gathered at Grace Best Elementary School — a building that Lewis-Palmer School District 38 shuttered last year. But by the end of the day, evacuees praised the swell of community support for helping them get through the day.
While Nordman’s husband, Rod, was at work, she was left to tend to her two children — ages 6 and 1 — at the shelter.
Neighbors of the elementary school brought toys, games and a DVD player to keep her children entertained, she said.
Several local businesses, including Rosie’s Diner, Safeway, Pizza Hut, Wal-Mart and Texas Roadhouse made donations to the evacuees.
A free spaghetti dinner was hosted for the evacuees at Oakley’s Bistro and Bar.
“It’s been an inconvenience, but everyone has been so wonderful about it,” Jenny Nordman said. “The community has been amazing.”
Hotel accommodations were arranged early Wednesday evening, paid for by Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.
Bisland said he and his wife planned to stay in the hotel overnight, as they wanted to be cautious considering his wife’s asthma symptoms. But through the chaos, he was able to find a few silver linings.
Sheriff’s deputies promised to have a veterinarian check his pets. And, Bisland added, he made a few new friends at the shelter.
“It’s a rough way to meet your neighbors, but it was good in one way,” Bisland said.